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FROZEN ASIAN PULLS AHEAD

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Consumers looking to recreate restaurant meals at home are driving strong growth, but merchandising frozen products together in an Asian destination could take the category even higher.

Sales of frozen Asian foods in both conventional and natural channels jumped 15.5% during the 12 weeks ended Oct. 3 (versus the same period a year ago) to $240.79 million, outperforming both frozen food as a whole and other global cuisines in the frozen food space, according to Chicago-based SPINS (spins.com). Manufacturers say both household penetration and repeat rates are rising, so they have every reason to believe sales will continue to expand through 2022.

‘Consumers love exploring the world and new cultures through food, and the Asian category is benefitting from that trend.’

“People are attempting to recreate some of their favorite restaurant experiences at home,” explains Peter Napathalung, manager of predictive science at Chicago-based Conagra Brands, maker of the P.F. Chang’s Home Menu (pfchangshomemenu.com) lineup. “But some cuisine types and recipes, like Asian, can be complex and intimidating, so [frozen] solutions that deliver restaurant quality with easier, more convenient prep continue to do great.”

Especially now that travel is so difficult, “Consumers love exploring the world and new cultures through food, and the Asian category is benefitting from that trend,” adds Brad Smith, vp of marketing at Bloomington, Minn.-based Schwan’s Consumer Brands, an affiliate of CJCJ Food Americas, which produces the Bibigo (bibigousa.com) brand.

MULTI-SERVE ENTREES, APPS DRIVE GROWTH

Manufacturers say a two- to three-door Asian destination creates awareness, builds excitement and, most importantly, boosts sales.

While the Asian entrees category registered a 9.6% gain during the most recent 12 weeks, Napathalung says larger sizes are driving the most growth. “We expect that to continue as consumers seek family meal solutions during this period of inflation.” Although most traditional flavor profiles saw growth, sales of Korean BBQ formats doubled during the past year while Thai and sesame dishes also built some momentum, he reports.

Recent additions to the multi-serve segment include Chicken Biryani, Chicken Pad Thai and Thai Pineapple Fried Chicken from Stamford, Conn.-based Saffron Road (saffronroad.com); Crunchy Korean Style Chicken and Fried Rice from Bibigo; and Chicken Teriyaki and Korean BBQ protein skillets from P.F. Chang’s Home Menu.

Despite solid gains in entrees, frozen Asian snacks and apps (+26.8%) have been the category’s biggest gainer recently. Although egg roll dollars are down slightly, spring rolls, crab Rangoon and, especially, dumplings are on the rise. In fact, reports Smith, the dumpling segment has more than doubled in the last two years, with sales up 36% during the past 52 weeks — and 49% during the past four.

“Consumers appreciate the broad range of eating occasions Asian snacks and appetizers satisfy,” he says. “Whether for easy entertaining, a convenient on-the-go snack or to add zip to a weeknight family dinner, the bold flavors make them a discovery worth sharing.”

To give consumers even more options, Schwan’s/CJCJ Foods is planning to expand its core Bibigo dumpling portfolio in 2022, adding smaller packaging sizes for single-serve occasions, says Smith. Other new appetizer options hitting freezers recently include Tempura Shrimp (Firecracker and Crispy Honey) from P.F. Chang’s and Crispy Asian Rolls from Seattle-based Suji’s Cuisine (sujiskorean.com).

The dumpling segment has more than doubled in the last two years, with sales up 36% during the past 52 weeks.

Beyond offering all the right mix of on-trend products, Smith recommends retailers looking to boost frozen Asian food sales create an Asian destination that pulls meals, appetizers, soups, sides and desserts together into a single two- to three-door set. Not only do they make it easy for consumers to find complete Asian meal solutions, “These destinations create more awareness of and excitement around frozen Asian food and bring more users to the category,” says Smith. More importantly, he adds, since the company piloted the Asian destination in 2019 (it will have more than 2,300 by the end of 2021), “We’re seeing it drive explosive sales growth in the category.”

Denise Leathers

Denise Leathers

Denise is the Editorial Director for Frozen & Refrigerated Buyer.

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